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Army announces cuts in expected force size due to ‘challenges’ in recruiting

The U.S. Army is expecting to cut the size of its forces in the coming years due to recruiting difficulties, which has already left them 10,000 soldiers short of their goal for this year.

The problems are due to a number of factors including competing with private companies to attract candidates, low unemployment, as well as spending much of the past two years during the coronavirus pandemic unable to hold face-to-face meetings with potential recruits at schools or fairs, which they had typically relied upon.

“We’ve got unprecedented challenges with both a post-COVID-19 environment and labor market, but also competition with private companies that have changed their incentives over time,” Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Martin told the House Armed Services Committee at a Tuesday hearing.

U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth backed this up, telling The Associated Press that they are “facing our most challenging recruiting environment since the inception of the all-volunteer force.”

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Wormuth said that the problem is not expected to go away in the near future, and so the best way to address this is to reduce the size of the military, rather than lower standards.

“We are facing a very fundamental question,” she said. “Do we lower standards to meet end strength, or do we lower end strength to maintain a quality, professional force? We believe the answer is obvious — quality is more important than quantity.”

Each branch of the military is having difficulty finding young people with the physical, mental, and character qualifications necessary to serve, but the Army’s recruiting woes have been the most severe.

This year, the Army started offering $50,000 enlistment bonuses to highly skilled recruits who make six-year commitments.

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Asked by Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., about whether the Army will have to make changes to its force structure, Gen. Martin said not yet, but it could happen.

“We don’t need to do that immediately,” he said, but warned that if the Army does not “arrest the decline that we’re seeing right now” it may be a “possibility in the future.”

In the immediate future, Martin said, the Army will “prioritize formations that have missions or preparation for missions and those missions will be prioritized to be manned.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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